Kilwinning Across The Pond

Back in February 2021, during the dark days of lockdown, Heather Upfield, from Kilwinning, was looking for something to do, to while away the hours. She decided to search for any other Kilwinning sites outwith Scotland and was surprised to find four Kilwinning mentions in the Americas! Here’s Heather’s account of her discoveries.

Provinces of Canada and States of United States of America and the locations of Kilwinning links:

  1. Kilwinning in Province of Saskatchewan in Canada
  2. Kilwinning in Scotland County, Missouri, USA
  3. Kilwinning in Ingham County, Michigan, USA
  4. A Kilwinning extra in Los Angeles, California, USA!

1.  Kilwinning in Province of Saskatchewan in Canada

It was easy to find a listing for Kilwinning, Saskatchewan on Facebook and I made contact with Lorraine and Melvin Coleman through Messenger. Lorraine was gracious enough to reply to my message out of the blue and delighted to make contact with someone from the original Kilwinning.

She immediately gave me some information about the history of Kilwinning, Saskatchewan. Interestingly, they had thought that Kilwinning was named “for Kilwinning Castle, southeast of Glasgow”. I was able to correct Lorraine on that!

According to Lorraine, Kilwinning was founded by members of the Dunlop family from Kilwinning in Scotland, who settled in Saskatchewan in 1904:

  • James Dunlop: born around 1843, aged 61 years when he arrived with his wife and 2 children in April 1904. He founded the first Post Office in 1905, which lasted till 1963
  • Hugh Dunlop: born around 1870, aged 34 years when he arrived with his wife and 3 children in April 1904
  • Robert Boyd Dunlop: born around 1875, aged 29 years when he arrived with his wife and 1 child in 1904 (month not specified)
  • Raymond Dunlop: born around 1890, aged 43 years when he arrived in November 1933. Died in 1952 aged 62 years

It has not been possible to trace members of the family in Scotland at this stage. None of them appear in Census information for Ayrshire in 1891 or 1901. It’s likely that they set sail for Canada much earlier and spent time in another Province before eventually settling in Saskatchewan.

From being a prosperous little hamlet, with a general store, train station, Post Office, water tower, grain elevator, stock yard, and even a small two Level [storey] hotel, its fortunes declined. Lorraine’s history book explains that the closure of the Pool grain elevator in 1957 (demolished in 1967), signalled Kilwinning’s demise. This was followed by the closure of the Post Office in January 1963. When the School also closed in 1963, children were bussed to neighbouring Leask and gradually families moved away from Kilwinning into Leask themselves.

From around 10 families who originally inhabited Kilwinning, there are now only around three families in situ, with Lorraine and her family being half a mile from there. The Plot Map below shows Kilwinning in its heyday, when it was a thriving little town. The land circled in red shows the location of Kilwinning Station, and below that “C & R Coleman”: land belonging to Melvin Coleman’s ancestors, and where Lorraine and her husband now live.

Plan sent by L Coleman

Lorraine has kindly sent to photographs showing where Kilwinning once stood, taken in March 2021:

Location of Kilwinning Main Street
Location of Kilwinning General Store, in front of
house. The Store was run by Melvin Coleman’s Grandparents

And I’m delighted to say that Lorraine and I are still good friends on FB! Much as I’d like to take a trip across the Pond and give her a visit, she tells me that in winter, there can be 4ft of snow and temperatures regularly drop to -40oF! I have to wonder how those early settlers managed back in the early 20thC, when they likely built their houses from wood.

2.  Kilwinning in Scotland County, Missouri, MO, USA

Following the success with Lorraine Coleman, I made contact with John Slavin in Missouri through Facebook in the same way. Again, I found he was delighted to hear from a Kilwinning, Scotland resident. He kindly furnished me with some information about Kilwinning MO and has sent me some images.

There is, however, a mystery surrounding how the town came to be named Kilwinning. Originally, the settlement was known as Unionton, as this Plat Map [Plot Map] of 1876 shows, ringed in red. The plot below it, also ringed in red, is the land now owned by John Slavin and his sister.

Plan sent by J Slavin

Unionton was in decline in the mid 19thC and the town leaders asked to be assigned a Post Office. This was refused, as there was already a Unionton post office elsewhere in Missouri. The town decided at that point, to change the name to Kilwinning.

Neither John nor I, can see any reason why the name Kilwinning was selected. The list of names of plots [above] doesn’t include any names that are recognizeable as Kilwinning, or Ayrshire, or even Scottish, aside from McWilliam, from whom John Slavin is descended. One possibility is that at the time the settlement was looking for a new name, there might have been distant recollections of Scotland. Alternatively, a Freemason in the town might have referenced Mother Lodge, Kilwinning.

According to John, his McWilliam ancestors were Ulster Scots, from Larne, with Scottish connections. The McWilliam land belonged to John Slavin’s great-great grandfather.

John reports, that in the late 19th Century there were “several homes, a couple churches, a general store, a normal school, a lodge [not Masonic], and that’s about it”.

Over the years, the small farms which made up Kilwinning disappeared, as larger farms became more economical. Eventually, the little settlement disappeared. This drone footage from John taken in 2019, shows the site of Kilwinning, Missouri today.

And John is coming over to Scotland next year, and we’re hoping we can meet up in Glasgow!

3.  Kilwinning Gravel Pit, near Mason in Ingham County, Michigan, MI, USA

There is only a tenuous link with Kilwinning in Scotland: near Mason, in Ingham County, which is Kilwinning Gravel Pit.

A report “Riches in Gravel Pits of Ingham”, from The Detroit Free Press, Sunday September 8, 1912, gives an account of the history of Ingham County Gravel Pits:

Originally the land was purchased by L C Robb in 1878, but in 1886, it came into the ownership of Peter Malcolm of Saginaw. He went on to name the 70 acres ‘Kilwinning’. It was one mile in length and, according to the report, miles of Michigan railroad had been ballasted entirely by Kilwinning gravel. The paper also reported that Kilwinning quarry was now “practically exhausted”. (Newspapers.com/image/119029277#)

It is difficult to know how the quarry got its name, but it’s possible that Peter Malcolm had links with Scotland, and maybe even Kilwinning itself!

Today, the industry has vanished, but the name is preserved in a halt on Michigan railroads. The entry for it is listed as follows:

“Kilwinning Gravel Pit was located two miles south of Mason on MC Saginaw Branch. Identified in a Michigan Central Railroad list from 1912” (HERE on michiganrailroads.com).

I am grateful to Bill Davey originally from Irvine, now Lochwinnoch, who having read the Blog, did some digging into the Gravel Pits of his own! Here is his additional information, which I have paraphrased and put into a time-line, which shows how the Gravel Pits came to be called Kilwinning:

1861: Peter Malcolm listed in Kilwinning Census living at Almswall Street [now Road] aged 23 (year of birth c1838), with wife Margaret (24) and daughter Jeanie (1). Occupation: Brick Moulder [from information about his brother John Malcolm of Dalry, presumed to be Eglinton Ironworks Fire Clay Works]. A lodger (21) living at the same address is listed as Occupation: Clerk, Fire Clay Works.

1863: Listed in Kilwinning Births Register: “Twin daughters to Wife of Peter Malcolm”. This suggests Peter was absent at the time.  It raises the question, did his wife and family eventually settle in Saginaw as well? I’m not going down that rabbit hole!

1865: Peter Malcolm listed in Dalry Census, Occupation: Brick maker, Coalheugh Glen Pit, Dalry.

1886: Peter Malcolm of Saginaw, known to have purchased Kilwinning Gravel Pits in Michigan.

1887: Peter Malcolm made a visit to Kilwinning at some point around 1887, as he is known to have marched with other Brethren, from Mother Lodge to the Eglinton Arms Hotel, to celebrate the Festival of St Thomas on Wednesday 21 December 1887.

1907: The Kilmarnock & North Ayrshire Gazette, 8 February carried the following Obituary: “MALCOLM: At Saginaw, on the 18th ult. [18 January], Peter Malcolm, aged 71 years, a native of Kilwinning and brother of John Malcolm, potato merchant, Dalry.”

And finally:

4.  Kilwinning Scottish Ale, at Boomtown Brewery, Los Angeles, California, CA, USA

A boutique brewery has produced a fine Kilwinning Ale! Their website declares:

“A delightfully malty ale inspired by the town in Scotland boasting the same name. The malty backbone of this beer is cut by the slightly astringent heather tip tea we brew in house. Hints of berries and earl grey can be found with each sip.”

The opinion of one drinker: “It’s a phenolic caramel maltfest” (https://untappd.com/b/boomtown-brewery-kilwinning/1909417)

I contacted the Brewery for more information, but so far nothing has been forthcoming. Maybe we need a North Ayrshire Heritage trip across to LA to give it a try!

Following the Blog going live in the middle of October, I was thrilled to receive an email (via Kilwinning Heritage) from Charles Lew, Managing Partner of Boomtown Brewery in Los Angeles.  He had received the Blog from a family member living locally and was happy to share information about the choice of ‘Kilwinning’ for his ale.

After I responded to his email, he kindly sent me the following text, showing how the ale came to be named, and his deep association with our town and beyond. He writes:

“Thank you for including our beer in your Kilwinning Across the Pond.

So we needed a name for a fine Scottish Ale and I picked Kilwinning as a nod to my mum, grandparents and a beautiful little town that I spent many many days in. My mum was born and raised there and we visited our grandparents there when we lived in Saltcoats.

I have very fond memories of the town including the Abbey, the museum, the Mother Lodge and the bridge.

I do hope this note finds you well and it is a pleasure to meet you. Thanks for your time and for finding our Scottish Ale in a sea of others!”

Thank you Charles. It’s a pleasure meeting you too! The inclusion of your ale in my Blog has been a real bonus and I’m delighted to have found this link. Do drop in to the Abbey Tower if you’re passing this way. Cheers and Good Health from Kilwinning, across The Pond to LA!

This blog post was kindly provided by Heather Upfield from Kilwinning Heritage. Check out their website to plan your visit to the Heritage Centre at Kilwinning Abbey Tower. Or why not give them a follow on their Facebook page?

© Heather Upfield, Kilwinning, 6 October 2023